Jacques of Savoy, Count of Romont

Jacques of Savoy, Count of Romont

Jacques of Savoy (November 12 1450 – January 30 1486), was Count of Romont and Lord of Vaud. He was the son of Louis, Duke of Savoy and Anne de Lusignan. In 1484, he married Marie de Luxembourg (1462-1546). They had one child, Françoise Louise of Savoy (1485-1511).

Count of Romont and Lord of Vaud

The House of Savoy has possessed the Lordship of Vaud ever since the 12th century, when it wrested control from the original owners, the House of Zähringen. Savoy extended its influence by supporting the city of Berne against the House of Habsburg. After the Battle of Laupen, Savoy and Berne became allies, but as the power of Berne increased, they became enemies at the beginning of the Burgundian Wars.

When Amadeus IX became head of the House of Savoy in 1465, he gave his brother Jacques as an appanage the region of Vaud with the title of Count of Romont, Lord of Vaud and the towns of Murten, Avenches, Payerne, Romont, Moudon, Rue and Yverdon.

Amadeus suffered from epilepsy and let his wife, Yolande of Valois, and his brother, the Count of Bresse govern for him. He died in 1472 and was succeeded by his son Philibert, who was only 6 years old. The young Duke's mother, Yolande, became his regent and tutor.

Several alliances were formed within the family. Peter, Prince-Bishop of Geneva and brother of Amadeus, became a counsellor at Yolande's court. The Count of Bresse sought the favor of Louis XI of France. Jacques of Savoy joined the army of the powerful Duke of Burgundy, Charles de Bold. Jacques took the opportunity of a conflict with his sister-in-law Yolande to grab several fortified places that Amadeus IX had retained, and an arbitration by Berne and Fribourg in 1471 awarded them to him. However, these different alliances and clever political manoeuvering by King Louis XI eventually led to the loss of all the territories belonging to the Count of Romont in Vaud.

The town of Romont

In the army of Charles the Bold

Jacques of Savoy became a close friend of Charles the Bold. In 1473, he became Governor of Burgundy, Grand Marshal and supreme commander of a third of the Burgundian army. Jacques had made the city of Berne—at that time on friendly terms with the House of Savoy—protector of his territories in Vaud during his absence. However, Berne joined the confederacy of the original 8 cantons, becoming an ally of King Louis XI through the "League of Constance", which further comprised Sigismund of Tirol, the town of Basel and the Alsatian towns of Straßburg, Colmar, and Schlettstadt. The treaty stipulated mutual assistance in case of outside attack and was directed against the Duke of Burgundy.

Sigismund of Austria, of the House of Habsburg, had given the Upper Alsace to Burgundy as an appanage. The region revolted against its Burgundian bailiff, League of Constance declared war on Charles the Bold and laid siege to Héricourt. In November 1474 Jacques of Savoy led his army in an attempt to lift the siege. However, when he arrived, Héricourt had already surrendered and in the ensuing battle the Burgundian army suffered a crushing defeat.

The looting of Vaud

Winter put an end to the military campaign in the Haute-Alsace, but in April 1475 the Swiss Confederacy, led by Berne, raised militia groups against Vaud. Vaud is strategically located, offering access to the Alps and transit to the Mediterranean and Italy. Berne also wanted to stop the flow of Italian mercenaries using Vaud to join the army of Charles the Bold. The armed groups ravaged the land, killing, raping, plundering and ransoming. As Jacques de Savoy could not return to defend his territories, the "Swiss bands" had soon overrun them, taking Grandson, Orbe, Montagny and Echallens. Murten took the side of the invaders. Massacres took place in Nyon, Clées and Jougne. La Sarraz and Cossonay were taken. Genève and Lausanne, bishop's cities, were heavily ransomed. In the East, troops from Berne took Aigle and a part of Chablais. In the end, the surviving population of 16 towns and 43 castles swore allegiance to their new Swiss masters.

On 14 October 1475 Berne declared war on Jacques of Savoy on the pretext of the hostility of the population they had themselves terrorised. Troops from Berne invaded Vaud again and massacred resisting garrisons. As no help would be forthcoming, other Vaudois villages surrendered before being attacked. However, as Charles the Bold became successful on the European battlefields, Jacques of Savoy could at last concentrate his attention on his territories in Vaud. In the beginning of 1476 he was able to retake his territories, in part because the Swiss confederation was withdrawing everywhere before the powerful army of Charles the Bold arrived.

The feudal towns

Loss of Vaud

After the battles of Grandson and Murten, both decisive Swiss victories, Vaud was again conquered by the Swiss and lost to Jacques of Savoy. Berne demanded Vaud and threatened Geneva and Savoy. Meanwhile, Duchess Yolande had fallen into the hands of Charles the Bold. King Louis XI intervened in favor of his sister and forced the Swiss to accept an armistice. On 14 April 1476 the Swiss Confederacy and Savoy conclude a peace treaty under the sponsorship of the French King.

The Treaty of Fribourg stipulated that the Swiss would be paid to return the territories of Savoy. However, the House of Savoy was unable to raise the ransom, so the territories remained in the hands of Berne. The Treaty also prevented the "Barony of Vaud" from being separated from Savoy in appanage and excluded the Count of Romont forever as Lord of Vaud. In this way, Jacques of Savoy lost all rights to his fiefs.

New fiefs and death

After the loss of his possessions in Vaud and the death of Charles the Bold before the walls of Nancy, Jacques of Savoy joined the court of Charles's daughter and heiress, Mary of Burgundy, wife of the Habsburg emperor Maximillian I. In 1478, he was awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece. [Statuts, Ordonnances et Armorial de l'Ordre de la Toison d'Or. Manuscrit en velin n° 76 E 10, Southern Netherlands, 1473-1491. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, NL.] He participated courageously in the Battle of Guinegate in 1479, where he was wounded, helping to beat the army of King Louis XI of France and keeping the County of Flanders for Mary.

In 1484 Jacques of Savoy married Marie of Luxembourg (1462-1546), granddaughter of Louis of Luxembourg-Saint-Pol, Count of Saint-Pol. He received Saint-Pol from King Charles VIII of France, with other fiefs in Flanders and Brabant out of the inheritance of Louis of Luxembourg. [Centre historique des archives nationales, Série J, Trésor des chartes, Supplément. Mouvance féodale du comte de Saint-Pol. Pièces J1047 du 7-10 décembre 1482. Inventory by Henri de Curzon, 1914-1915. However, the date of these documents is doubtful.]

Jacques of Savoy died on 30 June 1486 in the Castle of Ham, an old possession of the Counts of Saint-Pol.



*Bauchau, B., "Jacques de Savoie (1450-1486): histoire d'un portrait et portrait historique.", à l'occasion du 500ème anniversaire de la réunion du 15ème chapitre de l'Ordre de la Toison d'Or à Malines en 1491. Actes du colloque international "L'Ordre de la Toison d'Or à Malines en 1491", pages 117-147, Malines, 7 septembre 1991, publ. mai 1992.

*Verdeil, Auguste, "Histoire du Canton de Vaud", Martignier et Compe., Lausanne 1849-1852, Chapitre IX


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